Spreading the Macarena…I Mean Gospel

People like to dance in India.  And, most of the time, they are really good at dancing.  There are kids who dance so well that I kind of feel like I’m watching that video that momentarily lit up youtube with outraged mothers.  You know the one…a bunch of adorable little girls dancing to a trashy song in a trashy way in, shall we say, trashy outfits…I believe black and red lingerie was involved.  What I’m trying to say is that I’m fricking intimidated, yo.  Especially because after they go up front and dance the Sheila dance (someone google it for me please, and tell me about it.  lyrics:  “my name is sheila.  sheila giovanni.  i’m too sexy for you”) they tell me to show them a dance.  I’ve defaulted to teaching them the macarena, because it’s the only teachable “american” dance that I can ever think of.  And it’s actually really fun.  Instead of spreading Jesus Christ I am spreading the joy of modernized, un-Southernized line dances.  Hoofrickingra.

In other news, if you hear about a white girl falling out of a train to her death in the Mumbai area within the next week or so, it is probably me.  Please write songs for my funerals and paint pictures artistically depicting the event.  That would be awesome.  Here in Mumbai a lot of young men ride the trains (none of which have closing doors) by holding on to something inside and then hanging out the door.  I do that now, too.  It’s cramped on the seats (four in places that comfortably sit three) and you can’t really see anything out of the windows because they’re all covered in chicken wire.  Not at all interesting, imho.  Also you can’t beat the feeling of the sun on your skin, and rollercoaster wind in your hair…and if the speed isn’t enough for you, every once in a while a train get a little too close on the side or you almost run into a post or a rock wall.  I love it.  100%  I wonder if I could get away with riding trains like that Stateside.  I think most of their doors close automatically, unfortunately.

I’m still sick, which sucks, but I’m getting better, slowly but surely.  Slowly being the keyword, surely being the optimistic one.  It’s been a week, yo.  I’m ready to be better.

Hm.  Is there anything else that all y’all should know?  Commenting has dropped off, despite my posting several days in a row instead of once every two weeks, so I think we’ll leave it at that, and the rest of my thoughts can sit in my journal.  Take that.

(Rewind it back.)

The Important Stuff or Whatever.

Ok. So as soon as I wrote that title I returned to facebook and re-logged in to facebook because I don’t really feel like talking about the real reasons I’m here.  I’d rather talk about meeting people by the ocean and about how sick I feel right now and how despite that, I really wish we were doing more and seeing more on the days that we have off.  I suppose I’m part of the problem in that, but I would really like to get at least a little familiar with Mumbai/Bombay before we leave forever.

Ok.  So we are not just in Mumbai to take a break from Acts29.  We are visiting Hindustani Covenant Churches while we’re here, and also visiting schools in child labor projects to interact with the kids.  It feels like we just visit briefly and leave, which doesn’t seem that helpful to me.  Granted, the kids are laughing and smiling and interacting with us while we’re there, but is such a brief period of joy worth the effort?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad that we help them feel happy for a little bit, but is is an American and a couple Swedes and a couple Indians really that much better than the Indians who usually come and who can actually speak to the children?

Yesterday we went to a gigantic trash heap outside of Mumbai, which is a slum area where mostly Muslims live and spent time with the kids.  I really enjoyed them.  We played games and told stories.  (I told the story of the 3 Little Pigs, which Supriya translated for me, which I later found out they couldn’t even SAY because they cannot say the word pig at this part of the year?  Or something like that.  It was messed up, and made me once again feel guilty and too much of an outsider to be helpful.)

We also visited a youth/prayer group called New Life Fellowship, and they were awesome.  I love to be around people who are worshipping with everything that they have and these people were doing just that.  There is something very beautiful.  I love sincerity, however it manifests itself, and especially when it manifests itself around something I don’t quite understand.

Well my group is leaving now.   Tata.

“Do You Like Beer?”

Yesterday Gabriella and I went somewhere *gasp* BY OURSELVES, which is crazy because she is Swedish and I am American and therefore there were no Indians with us, which is at least a little bit taboo.  Although we both love hanging out with the Indians in our group, it was so nice to be able to interact with India how we wanted to, without constantly being reprimanded.  We are always told not to talk to anyone who we don’t already know, even if that means blatantly ignoring words or extended hands that are looking for nothing more pricey than a handshake.  I realize that these rules are “for our own good” and that there are scammers in the world, but one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people who live where I’m visiting.  They know more than I do and they can show me the cool things that Lonely Planet may have missed or the tourism booklets think no one would be interested in.

ANYWHO,  we went to the internet cafe (where we are again today…ooo…exciting), and after walking around for a little bit and buying some ice cream we settled down at the beach to watch the sun and the water and the people who were fishing in the shallows.  A 13 year old boy came up behind us and tried to sell us the maps and coloring books that he had, which, of course, neither of us were interested in.  Even though we made it clear that we had no desire to buy anything he was selling he stuck around for at least 20 minutes, telling us about Mumbai and making jokes that flirted with being inappropriate , which I think both of us appreciated for a little while, because we have been so stuck in one mode of living for so long, that a teaser of something else was like a breath of fresh air.  (My personal favorites were a: his attempting to wink at Gabriella, which, for him, was lethargically almost blinking his left eye constantly and b: his insistence that he would get so bored with every woman that he ever had in his life that he would probably go through one hundred before he died.  This kid was THIRTEEN.)

Eventually we’d had enough of him and he wasn’t leaving on his own, so we got up and walked further down the pier and sat somewhere else.  After casually talking for a while we noticed some guys wearing sunglasses and white ties hung loosely around their necks, which I thought was hilarious.  They were taking pictures and eventually came over to where we were sitting and asked us to take a picture with them.  We are always told not to do this, but there were no Indians other than the ones that wanted their photos taken with us, and I really can’t see anything bad happening from that.  We took a few photos, talked with them for a while (told them the little Hindi that we knew, among other things) and found out they were celebrating something that evening.

Then they asked the infamous pre-party question, “Do you like beer?”  We said no, knowing where the question would lead and not wanting to get into trouble with the Indians from Acts 29.  As soon as they walked away, though, we both kind of regretted (are there really a double t in that word?) it, because we want SO MUCH to see what it’s like to spend time with “authentic” Indians in an authentic environment.  Oh well, my Mum will be glad to know that I’m still turning down drugs and alcohol.  ;P

It was such a good day.  I felt like I was actually traveling in India instead of being a part of a huge directionless mob, that is in some different country, maybe.

I Miss Sandwiches.

I miss driving.  I miss clean water coming out of every faucet.  I miss reliable hot showers.  I miss being able to go places without telling someone and without a chaperone.  I miss having a variety of different foods instead of eating two essentially identical meals two times a day every day (every time it’s delicious, but holy goodness what I would do for a piece of pizza or a caesar salad for a break in the monotony.  It’s dal, dal and more dal up in herrrr.)  I miss having the ability to talk to anyone that I run into.   I miss my bedroom.  I miss my books.  I miss my television shows.  I miss being able to blend in in a sea of different colored faces instead of sticking out as one of the three whiteys in the country.

That said, I really like it here.

I love riding the buses, because every single time I imagine that I’m Harry Potter riding the Knight bus.  They stop on a dime and swerve around obstacles and people like you wouldn’t believe.  Every ride that I take I’m always convinced that we’re going to hit something, someone, but I’ve yet to see that happen.  I swear, it’s a muggle knight bus.

I love the architecture.  There’s a fusion of British and Indian architecture almost everywhere you look and it’s so beautiful, even when it’s falling apart.  I recognize that I would hate to live in the very buildings I inwardly swoon over, but the appearance of urban decay around here is phenomenal.  Also those that are well taken care of are gorgeous.

I love riding the trains and trying to be like the teenage Indian boys who only keep one foot in the train and one hand on a handle in the train and then let the rest of their body hang out the side.

I love the heat.

I love the music.

I love that men wear pink and purple because they like the colors with no thoughts whatsoever about the “connotations” such colors might have.

And most of all:  I love religion here.  I don’t care whose it is, it’s colorful, it’s loud and it’s proud.  Many Hindus will have parades down the street to celebrate their god on a certain day, and the Muslim call to prayer is beautiful and haunting.  No matter what religion someone adheres to here it is 100% theirs and they are more proud of it than anyone I’ve ever met stateside.  One of the Indian girls in our group answers her phone, “Hello, praise the Lord.”  I love it.

So much has happened!

It’s getting harder to make it to the internet cafe on free days.  It’s so much more appealing to spend the day browsing shops on MG Road or exploring temples or even just spending a little bit of time lounging on the terrace and watching all the Indians go by.  (Except on the days that the terrace smells like pee, which happens a lot more often than I would like it to.)   Regardless, I would like very much to try to give you a concise etailed summary of what has happened since I last updated:

I got sick.  It was very likely only heat exhaustion, but I spent one evening vomiting up the delicious Indian food I’d eaten just hours before.  It was gross.  I now have a cold, which I am imagining will turn into malaria, because evidently that sometimes happens and I’ve gotten a lot of mosquito bites.  I was told that the risk of malaria was really low in the areas where we are, though, so I’m probably just being paranoid.  Surprise, surprise.

Acts29 (the program I’m here with) annoys me more and more every day.  There is a very strong belief in spiritual warfare and demons and demonic forces being the operating forces behind the miracles that happen in other religions, which is something I struggle a lot with.  Having had personal experience with “prayer does not provide miracles” I have a hard time believing in that idea anyways, but even moreso when I am told that positive miraculous happenings that are not attached to Christianity are of the devil.  That does not compute.

The computer I am on has really sticky keys and is making my hands hurt.  Ow, ow, ow.  Just thought you’d like to know.

I gave my testimony about a week ago, because all of us had to.  It was rough, because I don’t think that everyone was as honest as they should have been.  The idea behind the program that we are in is that we will create a community of disciples, and in order to do that I believe that we need to know each other very well, ie we must trust each other with every important detail of our walks with Christ, regardless of whether those stories are easy to share or not.  Very few people made that commitment, and I almost didn’t.  I thought, though, that by clearly sharing everything I might be able to inspire others to do the same.  Wrong.  However, I consider my testimony a success because everyone laughed a lot.  Although at the end the laughs kind of dried up, despite the continued presence of jokes.  Something about my crying in the middle of the testimony must’ve scared them off.  Suckas.  😛

The other day we went to a youth conference at a local church.  It was a lot of fun and it totally reminded me of summer camp back in the day.  There was a lot of crazy dancing and singing.  Whootie whoo.  Funny thing is, though, that it didn’t have the spiritual high that I always attached to stuff like that back in the day.  That’s probably not funny, actually.  It’s just a reality.

Prayer:  We had “three straight days of prayer” last week, which, although not strictly enforced or followed offered a really good opportunity for all of us to spend time reading our bibles, reflecting and praying.  Everyone signed up for hour long slots…we weren’t all praying for three days straight.  I found it to be a really enjoyable time and it made me feel really at peace.  On the first day I made a list of things that I should repent for, and then did that, which is a really good way to figure out what parts of your life you want to fix or pay closer attention to.  On the second day I wrote a prayer letter and made the rule that I could not pray for myself, only others, and that was especially cool because it wound up being personal prayers for each of my family members.  It’s also really refreshing because I, at least, spend so much time thinking about myself, that it was a really nice shift to instead think only of others for an entire hour and to look out for their interests.  On my final night I prayed for all of the participants of Acts29.  I sat on a mattress and quietly murmured the prayer which, amazingly, actually took up my full hour.  Granted, there are 24 or so of us, but it was amazing that forcing myself to say the words out loud instead of just letting them run through my head made it take so much longer…and feel so much more sincere and worthwhile.

Ok.  That’s a lot to read so I’ll leave you with that.  I miss home a lot more than I usually do so if you consider yourself a friend or a family member to me…I send you lots of love.  🙂